In April, researchers from Florida International University and local fishers witnessed a Greenland shark in the Caribbean. The group was tagging tiger sharks at Glover’s Reef, in Belize when they pulled something strange out of the water. Instead of a tiger shark, they got a small-blue-eyed, 11 foot ancient beast. Before they got a chance to tag the shark, the storm rolled in, and they let it go.
Sleeper Shark in Belize
Greenland sharks are part of the Somniosidae (sleeper shark) family. These sharks live in deep, cold waters like the Arctic. Sleeper sharks are slow swimmers and exude little energy hunting for food. They feed on polar bear carcasses and have never been recorded attacking a human. While these incredible sharks are massive and can easily harm us, their bodies are toxic to us. While they might be harmful to ingest, Icelandic people create cured Greenland shark delicacy from them.
Devanshi Kasana, a Ph.D. candidate at the Florida International University Predator Ecology and Conservation lab, believed the shark she saw could be six-gilled. She sent the photo to Demian Chapman — her Ph.D. advisor and Director of Sharks & Rays Conservation Research. He replied and told her that it could be a Greenland shark. After addressing other shark experts, it was concluded that this could be a hybrid sleeper shark. This shark could be a hybrid of Greenland and Pacific sleeper sharks.
A Greenland shark in the Caribbean sounds like fake news, but the proof is in the photos. Since so little is known and recorded on the species, who knows how many lurk in the ocean and where? While the Caribbean is tropical, it still has ocean depths of 9,500 feet. This means that the sharks could be living and thriving there, and we don’t even know. Since shark fishing two miles around all three atolls in Belize is prohibited, we can start seeing more of these sharks in the near future. Hopefully, the team can spot the shark again and tag it with a special satellite tag.